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For Immediate Release, July 24, 2012

Contact:  Justin Augustine, Center for Biological Diversity, (415) 436-9682 x 302
Greg Loarie, Earthjustice, (415) 217-2000

Court Orders California to Reconsider Protection for Rare Forest Mammal

California Fish and Game Commission Ignored Information Showing That Fishers Face Significant Threats

SAN FRANCISCO— A California Superior Court has ordered the California Fish and Game Commission to reconsider its decision to deny state Endangered Species Act protection to the Pacific fisher, a rare, forest-dwelling carnivore. The ruling, signed Friday but made available today, responds to a lawsuit filed by Earthjustice on behalf of the Center for Biological Diversity.

Pacific fisher
Pacific fisher photo courtesy Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. Photo available for media use.

A close relative of the wolverine and mink, the fisher once thrived in old-growth forests along the West Coast. Today, because of logging, trapping, development and other factors, fishers are almost extinct in Washington and Oregon, and just two small populations remain in California: one in northwestern California and another in the southern Sierra Nevada. These isolated populations are at substantial risk from logging, habitat fragmentation, disease, rodenticides, traffic and development.

“The science is very clear that Pacific fishers are in serious trouble, and yet the California Fish and Game Commission has refused to throw them a lifeline,” said Justin Augustine, a Center attorney. “Now we hope fishers will get the protection they need to survive and ultimately thrive in California.”

The Center petitioned the commission in January 2008 to list the fisher as a threatened or endangered species under the California Endangered Species Act. The commission initially tried to reject the petition without conducting a full scientific review. Only after the Center exposed correspondence showing that many of the Department of Fish and Game’s own scientists believed fishers may be at risk of extinction did the commission reverse course and direct the department to conduct a full review. At the conclusion of that review, department managers significantly altered a draft of the status review to downplay threats to the fishers.

The department’s official, final review of the fishers’ status in California was heavily criticized by independent biologists. Only the timber industry supported the department’s decision to recommend against state protection. The commission denied the petition on Sept. 15, 2010, which led to the conservationists’ lawsuit.

In his ruling, San Francisco Superior Court Judge Harold Kahn ordered the department to “solicit independent and competent peer review” in determining the fishers’ status.

“The fact is that there are probably fewer than 150 adult female fishers left in the entire Sierra Nevada,” said Erin Tobin, an attorney at Earthjustice. “If ever there were an animal that desperately needs protection, this is it.”

To read the court ruling, go to:

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